Family & Education

E-petition prompts MPs to debate school funding

classroom Image copyright Getty Images

An e-petition about school funding in England was debated by MPs on Monday, after attracting over 100,000 signatures.

The petition was started last year by teachers in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear.

The group says schools are having to make cuts to staffing, subjects and other activities, due to their income not keeping pace with rising costs.

The government says it has increased funding by an extra £1.3bn across this year and the next.

The issue of school funding has prompted concern from teachers and parents alike, with even head teachers taking to the streets in protest.

In January, a report by the Education Policy Institute said that almost a third of local authority secondary schools in England were unable to cover their costs.

It said the proportion of such schools with budgets in the red had almost quadrupled in four years and the average local authority secondary school debt was £483,000.

In a fresh attempt to raise the profile of funding, the e-petition says: "Schools are having to make difficult choices on how to spend their limited funding as their income has not kept pace with the rise in costs since 2010.

"All schools are working very hard to 'make ends meet' but this is becoming increasingly difficult and verging on almost impossible."

It says that schools have had to cut back on a range of things, such as teaching and non-teaching staff, support for vulnerable pupils, teaching resources, extra-curricular activities and subject choices in secondary schools.

In response to the petition, the Department for Education said: "We recognise schools are facing budgeting challenges and we are asking them to do more.

"We have increased funding by an extra £1.3bn across this year and next, over and above previous spending plans."

'Damaging'

But, in a letter to local parents, the Gateshead Head Teacher Association said: "We need the government to hear how damaging the cuts have been to our funding.

"Schools across Gateshead are making very difficult decisions which will impact upon the quality of education they can provide.

"Many schools are having to cut back resources and reduce specialisms in subjects like music. All of this is ultimately detrimental for your child's education."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Thousands of head teachers held a protest in Westminster last September

Responding to the petition, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the school leaders' union, NAHT, said: "School funding is becoming a cross-party issue and it's encouraging to see so much parliamentary time being dedicated to it.

"This must give the Treasury pause for thought, at least. Unfortunately, up until now, they have remained silent.

"This isn't a position that they can stick to any longer when you consider how many people have signed this petition - 100,000 people can't be wrong."

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